'Sky and BT have to talk. If we keep playing on Wednesday and Saturday 12:30 I am not sure if we will finish the season with 11 players,' Jurgen Klopp told Sky's Geoff Shreeves.
While the Premier League has now settled down, something that the league table may never show us, the 2020/21 season has been widespread footballing chaos. One quick look at the La Liga and it will tell you absolutely everything that we need to know about footballing chaos. Atletico Madrid, for the first time in a decade, beat Barcelona and Real Sociedad sit atop the league table. Before the international break, Southampton sat atop the league table for the first time in 32 years.
But while their reign at the top was short and sweet, Sociedad have been there for a month and don’t show any sign of giving up the spot. They’ve got a three point lead over Atletico Madrid, six over Real Madrid and a sensational twelve over Barcelona. That’s right, we’ve got a new superstar team in Spain and it’s led by David Silva, Nacho Monreal and co. This is exactly what many expected footballing chaos to look like with nothing making sense but in the eye of the tornado, one thing hasn't changed.
In the year of chaos and nonsense which has been dictated by the unpredictability of it all, one thing has remained predictable and that is how the broadcasters would react especially in England. That one facet hasn’t changed so far and despite what was on his knees begging plea from Jurgen Klopp, it still may not change. The Liverpool boss unleashed an emotional, passionate and some would even heartfelt rant to Sky Sports’ Geoff Shreeves with the Reds boss and Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finally agreeing to something and both are in the right.
The scheduling this season has been absolutely insane especially for teams playing European football with few teams capable of handling the burden. PSG and Bayern Munich are clearly struggling with it, Barcelona are struggling with their own problems over and above this while Real Madrid’s start to their Champions League group stage encapsulates this rather perfectly. It’s why a frustrated Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then Jurgen Klopp unleashed their tirade on camera because if the broadcasters don’t listen to two managers of the biggest clubs in the world, who else will they?
And they’ve got a solid point because this has been a record-breaking season so far. Not just for the number of goals scored or the different number of clubs to take first place but for the number of injuries suffered. Eight games into the season and there have already been 103 muscle injuries which is a 16% rise compared to last season. To make things even clubs that play European football are struggling more than the others with 41 players out, between them.
Remove those seven clubs from the Premier League table and you take out 41% of all injured players in the English top tier. That’s 40 injured players from a grand total of 96 with Liverpool and Arsenal contributing to 18 of those players although three are down to COVID-19 positive tests. Now this was always expected to happen especially since clubs had little to no pre-season and were then forced to play a packed fixtures schedule. The scheduling hasn’t made it easier on anybody especially since the games have to be completed before the re-scheduled Euros start.
That has reduced the campaign by five weeks and combined that with the World Cup in 2022, it means that the first real and proper break most players will get is at the end of the 2022/23 season. Now while a professional player is used to such a gruelling and tedious schedule, nobody is used to the chaotic time that the world has been forced to adapt to thanks to a global pandemic. That is exactly why UEFA and FIFA made considerations when they re-introduced the five substitutes rule.
The amendment to the original law allowed clubs to use five subs per game instead of the usual three after lockdown until the end of the 2019/20 season. However, UEFA and FIFA opted to let leagues keep the amendment going until the end of the 2020/21 season with them concerned about player safety in what they predicted to be a very condensed season. That is exactly the way it has worked out but the Premier League clubs voted against the law.
For the law to be changed for the 2020/21 season, the league needed 14 of the 20 clubs to vote for the law which did not happen and nine games into the new season, it has led to an outcry. While the elite and their managers continue to clamber for it, the smaller sides are now changing their tune. It has seen West Ham manager David Moyes admit that he would back the law now especially as the number of injuries continue to rise.
He’s not the only one as reports indicate the last vote saw 11 clubs vote for the rule to be brought back and they’re not wrong. None of them are wrong, whether it’s the smaller sides voting against handing elite a gateway into making the full use of their larger squads or the sides playing European football begging for a way to reduce injuries. But the key point, that the Premier League and Richard Masters, CEO supreme, needs to focus on is the fact that they can’t afford bad press every week.
Whether it’s Jurgen Klopp hitting out at broadcasters, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hitting out at the league and broadcasters, Pep Guardiola and Klopp hitting out at Masters or Frank Lampard joining in, the league can’t be happy with it. These are after all, managers from the biggest clubs in English football, if not the world and ones that are followed by millions and millions of people. Their words may not have an impact on every single fan around the world but there is no guarantee of that number.
Masters has already had his say on the matter and while the Premier League’s CEO doesn’t believe the rule will ever be implemented, he has to make sure it is. Or else, this could be the norm with managers from the smaller clubs also speaking about how the English Football League (EFL) opted to bring the rule back. How every league in the world, barring the Premier League opted to bring the rule back. How obvious elite football’s disdain for the men who make it work is and so on.
These are not questions that Masters needs asked during interviews that have been broadcasted to millions and millions across the planet. This is, after all, the most-watched football league because it’s the best and most popular in the world. Because its teams are followed by millions and millions from the UK all the way to a tiny town somewhere in India. It’s why Masters needs to ensure that he fights and fights hard to showcase and prove exactly why bringing back something as simple as two extra substitutes per team will help player welfare.
This is after all footballing chaos and getting Premier League clubs, especially the smaller sides who have been hit just as badly as the bigger sides to agree to this, will transform the landscape. It could actually show the Premier League as a footballing entity that doesn’t hate the men that makes it tick but instead is looking to save them and save their careers. After that, they can go after the bigger problems.